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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Credit Card Cap on Gas Purchases Upsets Drivers

Almost $3-a-Gallon Price of Gas Isn’t the Only Source of Anger at Gas Stations

Depending on the card or the gas station, drivers paying for gasoline at the pump with big-name credit cards are being cut off at a certain point, typically either $50 or $75.

The limits are put in place by the gas stations and are there to prevent credit card fraud, a credit card company spokesman said. Because of the credit card companies' limited protection, people in the gas industry say they have no choice but to shut off the pumps

Tristan Jordan, a MasterCard spokesman, said his company protects gas stations up to $75 in the event of a purchase with a stolen card. So, he said, some gas stations cap MasterCard purchases at the pump at $75 to reduce their risk.

Visa and Discover cards offer $50 of protection per transaction.

The president of the Gasoline Retailers Association of Florida, Pat Moricca, said that since gas prices have risen in the past few years, the credit card companies should raise their protection limits. "It's a real pain, and the consumer is blaming the gas station owner," Moricca said.

The president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, Jim Smith, agreed.

"You can get to that $75 figure a heck of a lot quicker than you could in the past," Smith said.

In Gainesville, the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.96 recently, according to AAA. The average credit-card customer won't reach the $50 limit, since most gas tanks hold around 15 gallons.

But recently, Bert Garvin, a master sergeant in the Army Reserve based in Gainesville, was cut short when he was filling up his pickup, which has a larger gas tank.

Garvin said even though the limits are irritating, he understands why the stations want to protect themselves.

"As soon as the credit card gets stolen,” he said, “The first thing (the thieves) do is take everyone and their brother to go get gas."

Not as forgiving is Richard Trachet, of Gainesville.

Trachet, who's had trouble filling up his sedan over the past month, said, "I don't understand how it's a theft deterrent."

He continued, "It's like walking into a restaurant and the restaurant owner tells you, 'You want a roast beef sandwich today, but you can only have half. You can have the other half, but you have to pay again.'''

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